Avian blood and feathers as biological tools to track impacts from trace-metals: Bioaccumulation data from the biggest environmental disaster in Brazilian history Journal Articles uri icon

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  • The Mariana's dam collapse was the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history and one of the biggest worldwide. This perverse disaster resulted in the release of a contaminated mud tsunami that greatly impacted both aquatic and terrestrial biota. The aim of this study was to track environmental impacts resulting from Mariana's disaster using trace-element accumulation in avian blood and feathers as monitoring tool. For this, animals were collected at Doce River mouth (Regência), origin of the contaminated mud, and at southern (Aracruz) and northern (São Mateus) coastal areas. There were two sampling events (2018-2019), one during the winter period (first collection) and another during the summer period (second collection). Trace-element assessed were As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, Pb, Hg, Mn and Zn. Findings show that inorganic contamination in birds followed a strong spatial and temporal behavior. In terms of time patterns, blood and feather contamination levels were markedly elevated in samples from the first collection event in comparison to the second. In terms of space, bioaccumulation was greater in Doce River mouth (Regência) and southern area (Aracruz). Additionally, levels found for Pb, Hg, As and Cd in birds from the first expedition were above proposed threshold levels, indicating possible health impacts. Finally, it is concluded that avian from areas impacted by Mariana's disaster still presents elevated levels of inorganic contamination even after 5 years following the event. Additionally, local climatic factors might pose as major drivers for bioaccumulation patterns in these animals, resulting in marked spatial and temporal fluctuations.


  • Zebral, Yuri Dornelles
  • Costa, Patrícia Gomes
  • de Souza, Marta Marques
  • Bianchini, Adalto

publication date

  • February 2022